Thursday, April 24, 2008

White House Confirms that Israel Destroyed North Korean-equipped Nuclear Weapons Facility in Syria Last September

The truth finally did out, and now we no longer have to ferret it out from Syrian denials, as Dry Bones recommended back on September 24, 2007.

As reported in this blog in September and October 2007, on September 6, 2007, the Israeli Air Force, guided by Israeli commandos on the ground in Syria, destroyed a Syrian nuclear weapons facility under construction, which had been equipped and manned by North Korea.

At the time, some analysts, notably Obama campaign advisor Joseph Cirincione, questioned whether the destroyed structure actually had been a nuclear weapons facility. "This story is nonsense," Obama's adviser on nuclear threats told Foreign Policy magazine's blog. [For more on this angle, see Power Line.]

Today, the White House Press Secretary announced:

"Until Sept. 6, 2007, the Syrian regime was building a covert nuclear reactor in its eastern desert capable of producing plutonium. We are convinced, based on a variety of information, that North Korea assisted Syria’s covert nuclear activities. We have good reason to believe that reactor, which was damaged beyond repair on Sept. 6 of last year, was not intended for peaceful purposes. Carefully hidden from view, the reactor was not configured for such purposes. In defiance of its international obligations, Syria did not inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the construction of the reactor, and, after it was destroyed, the regime moved quickly to bury evidence of its existence. This cover-up only served to reinforce our confidence that this reactor was not intended for peaceful activities."

The Wall Street Journal was not impressed by the White House action. In a scathing editorial, the Journal questioned the commitment of the Bush Administration to stopping North Korean nuclear weapons development, and the proliferation of North Korean designed weapons programs. The editorial reads in part:

"Everyone who has looked at the incident has suspected as much [that Israel had destroyed a nuclear facility sold to Syria by North Korea], despite official refusals to talk about it. But the Administration's acknowledgment of it, even in classified briefings, makes its current stance toward North Korea seem odder than ever.

"The State Department has already given up on holding North Korea to its promise to disclose all of its nuclear activities. But now it appears that Foggy Bottom and President Bush are prepared to forgive North Korea for telling what the U.S. now agrees were lies about the North's nuclear proliferation to a Middle Eastern autocrat who is an enemy of America. At the same time, Bush Administration officials are saying that it is good policy to trust Kim Jong Il's declarations on his stockpiles of plutonium.

"So: Israel had to risk war with Syria to destroy a nuclear facility built with the help of lying North Koreans. But no worries, the U.S. says it can still trust North Korea to tell the truth about its current programs. This makes us wonder if the unofficial U.S. nonproliferation policy is to have Israel bomb every plutonium facility that the North Koreans decide to sell."

What is undoubtedly true is that the United State and the Western world owes another debt of gratitude to Israel, for stopping a nascent nuclear weapons program in Syria, just as it destroyed the Osirak nuclear plant in Saddam Hussein's Iraq on June 7, 1981. For that raid, Israel received only international condemnation, even from the Reagan Administration. That condemnation only changed to grudging thanks upon the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the subsequent Gulf War.

Israel's reward this time probably will be unrelenting pressure to make strategically damaging concessions to the Palestinian Authority in a misguided Bush Administration effort to earn its legacy through a Middle East peace agreement, the same shoals on which the Clinton Administration ran aground in its final months. It is both noteworthy and disheartening that the White House press statement failed to mention just how the Syrian nuclear facility was "damaged beyond repair on September 6 of last year." While the optimist in me wants to think that was White House cover for a still top-secret Israeli military action, the pessimist believes that for Israel, no good deed goes unpunished.


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